International Garden: Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens & Mineral Baths, St Lucia
When our long-awaited passports arrived in the mail, we couldn't wait to get on a plane and explore the world. We chose St Lucia as our first international destination with our new documentation. It is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean and boasts incredible views, activities and plant life for the whole family to survey. I'm a planner by nature and researched all the must-see places before we headed on our journey. Of course, the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens & Mineral Baths were a must!
On all our vacations, we enjoy exploring how the local communities live, what they do for fun and how they perceive their natural world. Our expert driver's grandfather was brought to the island as a slave from India. He subsequently married a native woman, and his family still has their home on the island. As we drove through the winding roads on the Atlantic side of the island - and it was winding (note: take some motion sickness pills with you when you go), we were amazed at the sheer size of the plants! It looked like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park - complete with goats tied to trees feasting on a nearby shrub.
I told the driver that my favourite fruit was guavas, but there were none at the resort. So I missed the season by a few months. Suddenly, he stopped the car, got out and ran to a nearby tree. He returned with four guavas the size of baseballs! I've never seen fruit that big. He informed us that the trees planted along the road are for the people. Nobody on the island goes hungry, especially during mango season when it drops to the ground like rainfall. St Lucia has 30 varieties of mangoes! I made a mental note to look at the mango varieties in the grocery stores when I got home.
After a quick dip in the mud baths from the collapsed volcano (also a must if you're on the island), we headed to the botanical gardens.
Feeling small under the canopy of the gigantic fauna and flora, we were reminded of how nature puts everything into perspective. Once the land was used as sugar plantations, now the botanical garden is a refuge where anyone can reconnect and recharge. In the same way, in which the mineral baths hold healing properties, nature has the power to transform if we dare to grow.
To learn more about the history of the gardens and the mineral baths, go to the website at https://www.diamondstlucia.com/history.
Guest blog by C. Bergsma
Oh Christmas Tree
Since Victorian times many homes have included an evergreen tree as part of their festive decor. There is an difference of opinion whether a real or artificial tree is best. For those who like a natural tree here are some tips. For needle retention the Scots Pine, Austrian Pine and Canadian Fir scored highest. When choosing watch for straight and dense trees that look good all the way around. Make sure you know the size you can accommodate particularly the height.
The best location for the tree is away from heat sources and direct sunlight. Check freshness by pulling a branch toward you. Only a few needs should come off. For best selection, buy your tree two weeks before Christmas keeping it outdoors until you are ready to decorate it. When setting up cut one to two centimeters off the trunk to allow it to uptake water more easily.
Your tree stand should hold four litres of water and it's best to use warm water for the first fill. You will need to top up the reservoir twice daily to keep the tree as fresh as possible. Once the needles start to drop it's time to dispose of the tree. The Region of Waterloo has a special collection date for discarded trees in early January. The trees are chipped and composted at their facilities. Please share photos of your holiday tree at firstname.lastname@example.org
Zero-Waste Gardening Tips
There are many ways that we are looking for ways to help the environment by reducing the amount of waste that we produce.
Laying the Groundwork
Many of our gardens are created over time by adding new items as they strike our fancy or we hear about their benefits through reading or attending an educational presentation. Garden planning is not something we think about although it might avoid some catastrophes if we did. In a perennial garden it is a good idea to have a diagram or photos to remind us of the locations in the spring.
Planning on paper is best done to scale on graph paper. Many garden Youtubers have said that their channels started when they began recording tours of their gardens. Gardeners can save the plant tags for new purchases in a safe place so they can refer to the information later. Don't forget the rule of thumb for perennials: sleep, creep and leap. The third year is when the plant will claim it's rightful place in the garden. There are many garden planning apps on line which will allow you to plan your garden out. With a starting point on paper you will see what might need to be moved to create the design you want.
When planting fall bulbs you should have the nearby perennials in mind too. Often emerging perennial growth will mask the bulbs dying foliage in the spring garden. For many gardeners planning is also done in January and February when seed catalogues are made available from retailers. We have heard that the pandemic greatly increased seed sales in 2020 and suppliers sold out of many items. We will be monitoring this situation and will keep you informed of what is happening for 2021 in the world of seeds. It is sometimes hard to envision our dream garden.
Often inspiration can be found in magazines, during presentations, walking around your neighbourhood or on our garden tours. It is amazing how people put all the elements of plants, hardscaping and decor to create a magical space. With winter approaching it is a good time to spend some time thinking about your 2021 garden space. Reflect on what went well and what was less than desirable. Perhaps you found that some areas where lacking in colour or plants were not looking as robust as they should. There are lots of resources available on line or at our local library that you might use to get an action plan for 2021 started.
Below are some titles available at Waterloo Public Library that you may find helpful:
Garden Spaces: simple solutions for planning and design by George Carter
How to garden: planning your outside space by Peter McHoy
Gardening from a Hammock: Advice from garden expert on easy-care plants: how to create a low maintenance garden by Ellen Novack and Dan Cooper
Light, water, temperature, humidity, ventilation, fertilization and soil are the main factors affecting plant growth. When selecting a new house plant your first task is to make sure it it suited to the environment you have to offer. It is better to get a plant suited to your home than try to alter you home to suit the plants. Most plants will have a tag showing the conditions they best grow in. Here are some notes to help you understand the conditions in your home.
South facing window – Bright Light – Direct light goes farther into the room in the winter
East & West facing window- Moderate- good for flowering and low light plants
West is hotter than south facing because of concentrated quality of light in the afternoon
North facing window – Low
Quality of light – Red – Far Red and Blue Wavelengths are most important. Quality is improved if you use artificial light.
Cool, white Florescent tubes make blue light that keeps plants from becoming leggy
Warm white florescent tubes make red wave lengths that help promote flowering.
The goal is to have new growth that compensates for leaf drop.
Nitrogen helps with lush growth and healthy green foliage
Phosphorus helps with root development and quantity of flowers
Potassium increases resistance to disease and aids in photosynthesis
Micronutrients should be replaced once a year
Use commercial fertilizer which comes in granular, crystalline, liquid, stick and tablet form. Most are water soluble. It’s not necessary to use fertilizer in winter. Apply monthly in the summer months
If a crust or white stain appears on the soil, flush with water.
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Waterloo Gardeners - Waterloo Horticultural
Society is affiliated with the
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The Waterloo Horticultural Society acknowledges that
our work is taking place on the traditional territory of
the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee Peoples.